Extortion Made Possible
As a President, Barack Obama is an excellent comedian, combining fine material with extraordinary timing. Last April, Obama (who is frequently accused by Republicans of being elitist) spoke at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. It already was clear his fall opponent would be Mitt Romney and he quipped of him "We both have degrees from Harvard. I have one, he has two. What a snob." He followed that with "Here we are in this vast magnificent Hilton ballroom, what Mitt Romney would call a fixer upper."
During the general election campaign, after GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan was exposed as having lied about running a sub-three hour marathon, Obama joked at the Alfred E. Smith Dinner "And I have to admit, it can be a grind. Sometimes it feels like this race has dragged on forever, but Paul Ryan assured me that we've only been running for two hours and fifty something minutes."
In stand-up, Barack Obama is professional grade or better. And in his weekly address Saturday morning, the President was true to form, though he was sitting at the time. He stated
And as I said earlier this week, one thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up. If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic. The last time Congress threatened this course of action, our entire economy suffered for it. Our families and our businesses cannot afford that dangerous game again.
I congratulate the newly sworn-in Members of Congress, and I look forward to working with the new Congress in a bipartisan way. If we focus on the interests of our country above the interests of party, I’m convinced we can cut spending and raise revenue in a manner that reduces our deficit and protects the middle class. And we can step up to meet the important business that awaits us this year. Creating jobs and boosting incomes. Fixing our infrastructure and our immigration system. Promoting our energy independence while protecting our planet from the harmful effects of climate change. Educating our children and shielding them from the horrors of gun violence.
I look forward to working with the new Congress in a bipartisan way. If we focus on the interests of our country above the interests of party, I'm convinced we can cut spending and raise revenue in a manner that reduces our deficit and protects the middle class.
Mitch McConnell laughed hilariously. The following day, he claimed on Meet The Press
Where we are now is we have resolved the revenue issue and the question is what are we going to do about spending. I wish the president would lead us in this discussion rather than putting himself in a position of having to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table to discuss the single biggest issue confronting our future.
Until we adjust the entitlements so that they meet the demographics of our country we can't ever solve this problem. The time to solve it is now. Presidential leadership is desperately needed. Now we know he's good at campaigning, but when does he put the campaign aside and start governing and addressing the single biggest issue confronting America and its future?
You might have thought that the decline of the middle class, the decreasing supply of good-paying jobs, a health care system far more expensive and far more effective than in virtually every other industrialized nation, nuclear proliferation or the threat of terrorism, or a continuing gulf in relations between a white majority and ethnic minorities might be "single biggest issue confronting America and its future. " No, for the Senate Minority Leader it is the need to wean the sick, the elderly, and the poor off social insurance so that the wealthy can maintain an effective tax rate lower than almost anywhere else in the world. And it cannot be done, McConnell warns, without the President of the United States and the leader of the Free World "having to be dragged kicking and screaming."
The President has raised the stakes almost to a stratospheric level, reminding us
And as I said earlier this week, one thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they've already racked up. If congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic. The last time Congress threatened this course of action, our entire economy suffered for it. Our families and our businesses cannot afford that dangerous game again.
Emphasizing the importance of Congress agreeing to raise the debt ceiling, Obama characteristically blames the recalcitrance not on Republicans or congressional Republicans, but rather on Congress, hoping to solidify the public's impression that all of Congress is obstructing the public interest. Call it Obama's version of "fair and balanced," a pox on both their houses, a descent into moral equivalence.
But we're in trouble if Republicans aren't as willing to be as reasonable as the President seems to believe they are. Repubs may be willing to balk at raising the debt ceiling, perhaps again setting in motion events leading to a drop in the nation's credit rating, which would increase the cost of borrowing and, hence, the budget deficit. And now Obama has made it clear to them that he believes it would be "catastrophic" if they act like they're accustomed to acting. And that gives the GOP tremendous bargaining power.